The Dark Was Done

Illustrated by Lauren Stringer

 “The Dark was tired of hiding. Nightlights, streetlights, flashlights, and table lamps — all pushed the Dark away. Everyone was afraid of the dark.  Everyone wished the Dark would leave. Even the boy who loved the song of crickets was afraid of the Dark under his bed.  Even he wished the Dark would leave.”

In this delightful picture book, everyone is afraid of the Dark and tries to vanquish it with artificial light. The little boy fears the Dark under his bed and wishes it would go away. Feeling unappreciated, the Dark leaves and the world is bathed in light with no difference between day and night. No one notices the Dark’s absence at first, but one day the boy misses the sound of crickets, and his mother tells him that it was a gift from the Dark. He decides to find the Dark and try to bring it back. He is joined by a robber (a raccoon) who misses hiding in the shadows, a poet who says he can no longer write poems without the Dark’s mystery, a gardener who misses her night-blooming jasmine, and many others along the way until they form a long parade of those who miss the Dark. Hearing their cries, the Dark returns, causing the light to disappear. At first, everyone is afraid, but then they notice bats, stars, and the sound of crickets. The boy realizes the Dark is not to be feared and hugs it. Each night, he waves to it under his bed before turning out the light. 

In this beautifully illustrated story, the Dark is anthropomorphized as an unappreciated, misunderstood, and benevolent creature. Stringer’s sweeping blue-black Dark takes different shapes on each page, shrinking or growing in relation to the light. Its constantly morphing form creates a visual understanding that darkness is alive and threatened by human-made light. Readers will come to understand that the Dark exists in relationship to light through the illustrations cast in bright yellows and oranges. The book exposes how humans unknowingly destroy darkness through artificial light, prompting a discussion of urban environments, the limits of growth, and the encroachment of human expansion on wilderness. The captivating narrative of the boy’s fear of the dark will resonate with young readers and allow them to explore both fear of darkness and fear of the natural world—especially for those who are not exposed to wilderness.

The Dark Was Done provides a beautiful exploration of the importance of darkness and the need to protect night skies to preserve nature and animals that rely on darkness, deepening readers’ understanding of the effects of consumer culture and carbon consumption from overuse of artificial light. As the various characters miss the gifts of the Dark, the story reveals biodiversity loss in night–blooming plants and animals who rely on the Dark. Teachers and parents could use this text to lead a discussion of ways to reduce light pollution, focusing on both home urban environments. Discussions could also focus on bird migration and the impact of city lights on their ability to migrate over cities with lit-up high rises. This topic provides an opportunity to discuss materialistic reduction seen through the lens of unnecessary lights in office buildings (some cities ban lights in high rises during migration season).

©2024 ClimateLit (Carol Dines

Resources for Light Pollution:

Reviews:

“Stringer’s watercolor illustrations beautifully capture a world bathed in both stark light and soft darkness, and her lyrical text, with a storyteller’s cadence, calls out for repeated readings.” The Horn Book

“ The visual pop between the velvety blue-black darkness and the canary yellow of daytime is one of the finer aspects of this gentle lesson in facing fears. Child readers with their own qualms about nighttime may find comfort in a Dark that hugs, smiles, and enfolds owls, stars, and flowers.” Kirkus

“… the most persuasive argument is made by Stringer’s vivid watercolor illustrations. The swaths of lemon yellow and marigold that initially seem cheerful start to feel faintly oppressive as daytime dominates, especially in contrast to the pockets of starry indigo that appear when characters express their yearning for the Dark. Once the self-exiled Dark returns, bathing the pages in a beautiful deep blue, we welcome it as gratefully as the boy does.” New York Times

Publisher: Beach Lane, 2022

Pages: 48

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6292-2

Audience: Little People (4-7), Sprouts (0-3)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Anthropocene, Anthropomorphism, Biodiversity Loss, Birding, Carbon Emissions, Climate Adaptation, Climate Change, Conservation, Consumerism, Ecocentrism, Human Expansionism, Light Pollution, Limits to Growth, Materialist Reductionism, Solar Power, Urban Environments, Wilderness, Zero Waste

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